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Uncut Gems Review

Updated on June 25, 2020

Uncut Gems (2019) review

This film was a crazy anxiety filled roller coaster ride that didn’t always connect with me along the way. It was very entertaining, but every scene seemed to breed chaos and cause confusion as to what is actually happening. I had high expectations for this film and for Adam Sandler as an actor. Although he rarely takes on dramatic roles like this, he is more than capable of handling a complex role, which he demonstrated here. What fell short for me was the story and the way it was shot.

Uncut Gems (2019) was directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, who also co-wrote the screenplay along with Ronald Bronstein. The movie stars Adam Sandler and Kevin Garnett who plays himself. Howard Ratner (Sandler) is a jewelry store owner and an addicted gambler who owes money to people all over town and is constantly being hunted down by loan sharks. Howard orders a rare uncut black opal from Ethiopia, and when he receives it he realizes this stone may be his big pay day. However the heat is turned up when the loan sharks start cornering him and threatening him, and it doesn’t help that Howard’s addiction causes him to turn around and bet any money he is able to get his hands on. One day he meets Kevin Garnett, who falls in love with the stone. Now all Howard has to do is make this deal happen with Garnett before the loan sharks take his life.

Sandler knocked it out of the park with this role. His desperation and anxiety every step of the way radiated off of him, and I definitely felt it. Every time one thing went right, three things went wrong and he was destined for a downward spiral from the start. The director seemed to try and convey a frantic feel to some scenes by having a lot going on, so you really needed to focus on what the main characters are saying or doing. This works well for the movie at times, but mostly it was a distraction and made the film harder to follow. There were a few times I had to stop and rewind it because I missed something, and that is one thing you simply can’t do in a movie theater.

Overall I feel like this was a great Sandler movie, arguably his best dramatic role for sure. Just be warned that this film uses strong language throughout.

Film trivia

  • Uncut Gems had a budget of 19 million dollars and the worldwide gross is a little over 50 million dollars.
  • This film was released on December 25, 2019 and was produced and distributed by A24 films.
  • This movie was filmed in New York and South Africa.
  • This film had its world premiere at the 2019 Telluride Film Festival.
  • The film was inspired by the Safdie Brothers' father's time working as a salesman/runner for a man also named Howard in the Manhattan Diamond District. The Safdie Brothers and their father are also Jewish and basketball fans.
  • This was Kevin Garnett's and The Weeknd's feature film debut.
  • This was Adam Sandler's first live action role in a theatrical film since Pixels. All of his other live action films went straight to Netflix.
  • Howard Ratner's jewelry store was a set built entirely for the movie.
  • The house used for the exterior of Howard Ratner's home is the same house used as Freddie Mercury's home in Bohemian Rhapsody.
  • Adam Sandler wore false teeth and a fake dark mole on his right cheek for the role.
  • Yussi is played by a real-life jeweler, Maksud Agadjani, who was embroiled in a social media spat with rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine in 2018 over a 25,000 bracelet he said he lent the performer and was never paid for. The situation was covered by several hip hop media news outlets.
  • The story is set in 2012.
  • Tilda Swinton makes a cameo in the film as the voice of the auction manager on the phone.
  • Daniel Day-Lewis praised Adam Sandler's performance in this film. Sandler said that it is one of the highlights of his career.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio was considered to play Howard Ratner, but had scheduling conflicts with Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019).


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